Fine line between executive powers

Former Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell.
Former Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell. JoJo Newby

THE NSW Department of Public Prosecutions' decision to drop the case against former Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell is an example of the "wafer thin" separation of powers between the politics, the executive and the judiciary in Australia, a Sydney academic said yesterday.

Dr Michael Kennedy, a former detective of 18 years, is the head of the University of Western Sydney's Bachelor of Policing program and specialises in ethics and the politics of policing.

"You would have thought the NSW Government would want to put this matter to bed as a matter of public interest; they're not going to get any sympathy from the federal Labor Government," Dr Kennedy said.

He said magistrates and judges were politically appointed and most attorneys-general became senior counsels within a month of ending their jobs despite, in some cases, having less-than-impressive work records.

"At the end of an attorney- general's role they usually get a job on the Supreme Court; the separation of powers in this country are wafer thin," he said.

The case of Mr Cansdell reinforced this view, he said.

Mr Cansdell admitted last September to signing a false statutory declaration in 2005 to avoid a speeding fine but it was revealed on Wednesday the NSW DPP, which comes under the control of the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith, dropped the case on the basis that Cansdell had signed a Commonwealth statutory declaration.

"NSW Police can act under the Federal Crimes Act," Dr Kennedy said.

Even if there was some special provision for the Statutory Declarations Act to be dealt with by the Commonwealth DPP, Dr Kennedy said: "Surely there are some Federal Police in NSW that can deal with it.

"There are rule makers, rule enforcers and rule breakers. It is beyond the pale to think that rule makers are dealt with differently to the rest of us when they break the rules."

Unfortunately, he said, there had been repeated evidence of this being the case in NSW. For example, he said very few prosecutions emanating from the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption in the mid-1990s were successful.

A spokesperson for NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson said if shadow police minister Nathan Rees had not asked questions of Mr Smith about the Cansdell case on February 23 it would have been dropped altogether.

It was only that journalists asked Mr Smith if he was going to refer the case to the Commonwealth DPP on Wednesday after Question Time that Mr Smith said he would do so yesterday, the spokesperson said.

Topics:  steve cansdell

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